Everything and the Kitchen Sink: Household Goods Donation Program Helps Oklahoma
BY MARY BRUZZESE
Richard and Margarette Baze, representatives of the VVA Household Goods Donation Program (HGDP), own Value Village Thrift Shop in Oklahoma City, which exclusively sells items donated to the HGDP. When the devastating tornado ripped through the Moore, Oklahoma, area on May 20, killing 24, injuring 377, and severely damaging or destroying 1,200 homes, the Bazes sprang into action.
“We’re very near Moore,” Richard Baze said, “so we felt compelled to be a part of the relief effort.” The night after the tornado hit, the Bazes drove out to Moore to assess the situation. “We were officially on site the next day, and we’ve never left,” Baze said.
The Bazes set up a VVA station in a vacant building in Moore, offering an array of free items to the tornado victims. The Bazes were also in daily communication with the Red Cross and local churches that had joined the relief effort, offering them whatever items they needed to distribute to victims. The Bazes also drove around the affected area in their VVA pickup service trucks, distributing items to tornado victims.
After the Moore tornado hit, Quentin Butcher, director of business affairs for the HGDP, called the Bazes to check on them, as he knew they live near Moore. After hearing about their relief efforts, he sent vouchers to the Bazes that victims could use to pick up items from their thrift shop.
“We saw a need,” Butcher said, “and we saw a way to help.” After receiving the VVA vouchers, the Bazes drove around Moore handing them out.
Meanwhile, Mickey Weill, the vice president of sales development for Protravel International in Beverly Hills, California, wanted to do something to help the Moore tornado victims. “The night after the tornado hit,” Weill said, “I went to bed thinking, ‘What if you woke up in the morning and everything was gone?’ ”
The next day Weill began to look for organizations through which he could donate clothing and other items to the victims. That led him to VVA’s HGDP. Through the HGDP clothing donation website, www.ClothingDonations.org. Weill was able to contact Butcher and the Bazes.
Weill immediately began an effort to collect items to donate to the Moore tornado victims through the VVA HGDP. He started by talking to all the Protravel International agents, who began collecting items. Weill then contacted PROST, another travel industry organization in Los Angeles, which donated some fifty bags of clothing and household items. Weill also went to the board meeting of Stop Cancer, an L.A.-based organization that funds cancer prevention research, where he spoke about his efforts. Stop Cancer donated several bags.
As a travel agency, Protravel International is well connected to Los Angeles area hotels. After Weill reached out to the hotels, many started collecting items. “The hotels have a lot of toiletries, towels, and blankets on hand,” Weill said, “so they were able to donate a lot of those items.”
Through Protravel International’s connections, Weill was able to get in touch with Beverly Hills Transfer and Storage, which donated boxes, and with Forward Air, which offered to deliver everything to the Bazes in Oklahoma at no charge. Weill, along with several colleagues and volunteers, packed up 247 boxes of clothing, linens, and household items.
“We sent everything and the kitchen sink,” Weill said. “One of the hotels that joined the effort had two new kitchen sinks left over from remodeling that were donated.”
On May 31 the Forward Air truck arrived to pick up the items. Weill and his team packed the twenty-eight-foot truck from front to back, floor to ceiling. The truck arrived in Oklahoma on June 3. The Bazes are sorting through Weill’s donations and distributing them to the tornado victims.
Weill’s effort has continued to grow. As more L.A. area hotels and organizations have heard about his efforts, they have collected more items for the cause. Some are shipping donated items directly to the Bazes.
“These kinds of disasters are terrible,” Richard Baze said, “but it’s amazing how many people in these situations get together to help. We were able to really get the VVA name out there as a part of this relief effort.”
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